28 May 2017

Curious Curator on Art Appreciation and Showcasing Visayas- and Mindanao-based Filipino Artists

Art is no longer a thing of the elite. Through technological advancements, especially social media, that make sharing experiences a breeze, we’ve arrived at an era where art is accessible and gets more attention than ever. Individuals from different sectors and classes are now welcome to consume and elevate it. This movement is apparent in the recent popularity of open-to-the-public art fairs, the boom of local art galleries which paved the way for an influx of new artists, and the expansion of concepts art tackles. It is truly relieving to realize that we’ve come that far. We still couldn’t deny, however, that there's yet a long way to go, in terms of making art truly universal. And that leaves a challenge to all of us. 

Fortunately, there are those who have already started the work, taking risks to trail the path towards revolutionizing art consumption and/or appreciation. For one, there is Karen Nomorosa and Prim Paypon―a Biology professor and an NGO owner, respectively―who were convinced that the lack of an art degree shouldn't stop one from heeding this call. Through their mutual love for art, they brought Curious Curator to the table―an art incubator and startup anchored on the desire to establish a non-mainstream avenue for starting art enthusiasts and collectors. More than redefining art appreciation and exhibition, though, Curious Curator is driven by the vision to bridge the gap between the vibrant art scene in Metro Manila and the budding artists from Visayas and Mindanao. Upon its shoulders is the hope to make these underrated artists have the recognition and opportunities they so deserve. 

PURVEYR sat with Karen and Prim to better know this new concept that, frankly, has also sparked a lot of questions in our heads.

"to be a platform for these very talented yet very young artists outside of Metro Manila who also have that hope to someday become professional artists." 

When and how did Curious Curator start?

Prim: Karen and I have been friends for 13 years. And it was only in the recent years that we were able to find out that we're both art enthusiasts. That kinda started the discussion about our love for the arts. But we established the Curious Curator just because we felt that, ideally, the Manila Art Scene should also be participated in by the Visayas and Mindanao artists. 

Karen: I think it's also driven by the fact that Prim comes from the Visayas and he's really active in development work. So, when we were bouncing around the idea of maybe doing something like a gallery, we realized that maybe we should really feature artists that have a hard time accessing mainstream galleries here in Manila—great, talented artists who even won international competitions but still have a hard time. 

Prim: We did an informal survey and found that in every 10 Filipino artists that we've interacted with in Ilo-ilo and Cebu, only two gets invited to be a part of a group exhibition or to be staged as a gallery artist here in Metro Manila. When we tried to deconstruct the problem, we actually found out that there's not really an art incubation or acceleration here in the Philippines. So, we tried the possibility of starting an art incubation and acceleration—something to bridge the gap between the art galleries in Manila and the artists in Visayas and Mindanao—in a very start-up framework, since Karen and I also couldn’t afford to put up a physical gallery. We launched it on September 30 last year, on the same night that we launched our first exhibition. 

Founders of Curious Curator: Prim and Karen

What do you envision for Curious Curator?

Karen: Our end goal for the artists is to connect them to the mainstream galleries here. So our success metric, other than selling the works from their two-man or solo exhibitions, is getting picked up by a mainstream gallery later on to later have their own show in that gallery. 

Prim: We call it an art incubator and accelerator because it's not just about tapping an artist and asking them to make ten artworks for us to show. We keep in mind that they've never had an exposure here in Manila so we try to guide them in terms of sizes of the artworks and deciding on the prices. 

What drove you to forward this cause?

Prim: Perhaps passion started it but Karen and I would want to believe that we’re just strongly guided by our “why”—why we actually did the Curious Curator in the first place. We always knew that our profit is very slim but our success metric for Curious Curator is whether or not the two artists we exhibit get invited by Manila art galleries. 

How do you select the artists?

Prim: We have certain criteria for selecting the artist. We profile the artists that we've interacted with and those we've read in the news—those who made it to international competitions. It's really an entire process of selection. Since we're an incubator, we choose those who have never had a solo exhibition here in Manila but have won a legitimate art competition. We also want to work with artists who can be mentored, in the sense that we'd be able to work with the artists from the concept creation stage and help them define their signature strokes. We also try to professionalize, prepare them for potential buyers who are coming from Manila. 

Can you describe this creative process with these artists?

Prim: It's all collaborative. When we find an artist, we try to understand what makes this artist really good. So that we could help him/her with the stroke, the concepts, the texture, the colors that he/she would use. Then we try to come up with a relevant social concept which might match the artist's style. 

Karen: But it's not as if we're imposing 'cause it's something that's inherently there. It's just like we're a third eye or party that will help them figure things out. I think, at this time, it's very important to have a very unique perspective and very original voice. We help them find that. 

Aeson Baldevia, Featured Photographer in "Before They Are Gone"

How do you find them? How do you know if it's a match?

Prim: When we have a set of artists we wanted to work with, we try to match them with the artists that we know from all the exhibitions we've attended who might share the same strokes, colors, concepts with them. So, at the end of it, when they first introduce their artwork in Metro Manila, even if it's a two-person exhibition, they would still be able to showcase their originality. We also try to push our boundaries. Most of the two-person exhibitions in Metro Manila, they're both painters. For our first exhibition, we had an oil painter and a cold-cast marble sculptor. And it's always a balance of a young and a seasoned artist. 

Karen: Sometimes, it's serendipitous, I guess. For that first exhibition, we were in Ilo-ilo and we dropped by one of the galleries, Casa Real. And there was an ongoing exhibit with the Cold-Cast Marble sculptor. And when I saw it, I immediately loved it. And I wanted the artist to do a mother and child piece. Then we saw the works of the oil-painter. We've already heard about the oil painter prior to that. But when we were thinking about who to feature for the first exhibit, it's as if it just naturally clicked. The oil painter features mainly women and children in her paintings, and the cold-cast marble sculptor has this whole series about women. That's when we came up with the theme: The Quiet Strength of a Woman. But we had it in Ilonggo—Ang Maugdang nga Kusog sang Babaye—because they're both from Ilo-ilo.

I think we’re also very fortunate that Prim travels a lot for his NGO. He’s always around different towns across the Philippines. It’s also about maintaining relationships in the art world—maintaining relationships with artists and gallery owners. It’s like a net effect of keeping in touch with people. 

Prim: It’s really trying to bootstrap. To work around available opportunities. Karen and I just do what we wanted as a concept and the type of artist that we want to work with. So, when all of these artists appear in exhibitions that we attend, there’s like a yes-or-no engine in our head.

Jovito Hecita, Featured Painter in "Before They Are Gone"

How is Curious Curator different in terms of the manner for art exhibition?

Prim: We only open for three days—Friday is the opening night, regular viewing is Saturday and Sunday. That’s how we wanted to curate differently. A usual gallery would have it for two weeks or so. For us, those are the days that we can afford to pay for the venue. We don’t do exhibitions in art galleries. So, we try to challenge ourselves in terms of curation. For our Day 2 which falls on a Saturday, we also send our artists for an art education, to visit art galleries and museums here because these are the venues that they have to witness and go to which are not accessible for artists outside Metro Manila because it’s very costly to go here. Part of the art incubation and acceleration that we do is we fly them to Manila. 

We also curate our own food. Why? Because part of appreciating the art is also engaging the audience in a multi-sensory experience. It’s actually more challenging to curate the food because we prepare them ourselves more than curating the arts. In terms of preparing the food, we have to get local produce, ingredients, and delicacies from where the artists come from or from where the concept was born. In addition, we also try to engage local brands to be partners—like a local beverage or local tea. 

Karen: We try to humanize and Filipinize art appreciation. That’s why when we’re trying to create the concept, we try to come up with something that is very relatable and exciting. 

Prim: Apart from that, when Karen and I were coming up with Curious Curator, we wanted the concepts, more than accessible, to be very relevant. We had to agree that it has to be positive and timely. It has to be engaging. We’re also very blessed to work with not just skilled artists but artists who come from very beautiful stories. 

Karen: But it’s not like a conscious choice to pick artists with interesting stories. They just unravel on their own. While we interact with them, we learn about their personal histories 

Why did you make the art exhibitions shorter? 

Prim: Because it would be really costly for a startup. Secondly, it’s a challenge for Karen and I to sell the artworks in the span of just three days. It’s also a barometer of how good the artists are. For people to buy the art or choose to actually go to our exhibition, we have to find all the ways that are creative and innovative to engage them. So three days is really a challenge for both of us.

Karen: Also, our main audience are people who are working or are students. So the weekends are also a time for people to come and spend time. Prim and I also have our full-time jobs. The short span of the exhibit also forces people to come. It’s like a declaration that they have to see us “before we are gone”. 

Prim: No one opens an art exhibit on a Friday. It’s the time for gimmicks. But we took that risk. Maybe we could give people a better use of their time to appreciate humanity and the arts. 

One side of your equation is giving an avenue for these artists, taking them to Manila from Visayas and Mindanao. Can you tell us about the other?

Karen: The other side of it is that our networks consists of young professionals and young founders. And we really want to introduce them to the concept of honing original Filipino art. I think, that’s also one of the reasons why we came up with the pop-up concept and not holding it in a traditional gallery. We wanted it to be in a place that’s familiar and very, very accessible. So, the other part of the equation is also being able to share the experience of loving art with others. That was the other part of our equation. We really wanted to take it away from a gallery setting. Because it’s intimidating. You engage people in conversation and they ask you, “So who’s your favorite artist?”

Prim: During the informal survey that we did before we came up with the framework of the Curious Curator, we asked people what makes them attend an art exhibit. A lot of people felt that the opening nights of an art gallery are very elitist at some point. I think it also worked for us as Curious Curators founders that we're not coming from a very strict art background. Our network is also not the very prolific pool of art collectors. We’re not proteges from that background. In fact, we have different taste for art. So, when a lot of people are intimidated by the arts, we just wanted to humanize the arts in the Philippines. We wanted to show that the arts is actually for all. That’s also one of the reasons, aside from not having resources, why we do everything as far as curation is concerned—we write our exhibition notes with the promise that we write the words in the most understandable way possible. 

Because art should be storytelling. If you don’t make use of accessible words, how can you tell and engage people? 

Karen: For our third, I guess, this is the most demanding exhibit to date because it’s like we’re curating three things.

Prim: The third is entitled Before They Are Gone. It’s a visual homage to the Panay Bukidnon Tribe in Ilo-ilo. It was a very risky concept because it’s not usual here in Manila to actually feature a photographer and a painter to collaborate on a concept as a tribute to Panay Bukidnon. But Karen and I always felt that the arts should also serve that heritage value. 

It’s also a dying indigenous community and I come from that region. And I strongly felt that despite the unpopularity of the concept, we just have to risk it. Besides, we’ve been risking it since our first exhibition. 

And a photographer and a painter together? Really? But they’re both from Negros. So this exhibition is really a way to educate people that there’s this indigenous community in Ilo-ilo. Hopefully, our exhibition would not make "Before They're Gone" a painful reality in our time—that it would never happen, that they’ll be phased out.

How did you know about the indigenous community? 

Prim: I’ve always been a conscious heritage advocate. And I’ve always been there.

Karen: He once had a talk in Capiz and he decided to go up to the mountain, to visit that particular community.

Prim: They’re very authentic. They weave their own textiles, they embroider patterns, and they’re different in terms of their values in the community and their lifestyle. They handcraft all their jewelries. Then it just emotionally hit me—how come we have this beautiful and authentic heritage? 

How about the artists for this concept?

Karen: In a way, it’s also serendipitous. Because we actually wanted to feature Sir Otay, the painter, way before, but it never seemed to work out. Then, when Prim shared with me his experience with the community, it just dawned on us that Sir Otay’s style seems perfect for this. In that sense, it was serendipitous. It’s actually good that we didn’t push through with him the first time because this concept for him is perfect. 

Prim: We feel like there’s a divine intervention in the midst of all of this. For us to actually merge a very relevant concept to be articulated by really powerful artists. From that perspective alone, we consider ourselves very lucky to be working on concepts with very new artists and to get to see their artistic journey. 

In terms of the venue, we’re also very lucky again to encounter a young entrepreneur from the 14th floor of Sagittarius Building. It took us months to find the perfect venue because we wanted something industrial or some sort of an unfinished venue. Because the concept is "before they’re gone". If we do not take action or get ourselves educated about their existence, they might really be gone or finished. So we wanted a space that is unfinished, and where can we find one in Makati? The owner of the space also took a risk in allowing us to borrow the venue, his yet unfinished co-working space. We also liked that one can get a view of the high-rise buildings outside. It creates a very interesting contrast—you have sprawling buildings but you have a regressing community. 

Why did you call it “Curious Curator”?

Prim: ‘Cause we’re not professional curators at all. *laughs*

Karen: Also, I think curiosity is the start of many different adventures. 

Prim: In terms of our framework, the strategies, they’ve always been driven by What-if questions. And “Curator” because we just wanted to bring back how art engages people. Our logo also captures what the concept is all about. It’s like a keyhole. 

Karen: Yes, you try to peek through a keyhole and try to see what’s inside. We wanted to open that door of curiosity for the artists, and introduce them to a whole new community of art lovers, galleries, and art enthusiasts. 

Prim: But, really, the real reason is that we’re not professional curators. We’re just curious. We won’t fake that answer. *laughs*

Any other thoughts that you want to share?

Prim: We’re at the stage that Filipino artists are celebrated in very important stages, exhibitions, here and abroad. And we wanted Curious Curator to be a platform for these very talented yet very young artists outside of Metro Manila who also have that hope to someday become professional artists. That’s the part that I love the most about Curious Curator. 

Karen: At the end of the day, we just really wanna share not only the talent of these artists but really share love for the arts. And encourage people to appreciate how Filipino art helps mold Filipino society, forming our identity as a nation. That’s one of our main drivers as well. 

12 May 2017

A Filipino brand that believes becoming Mindful is the way for Sustainability

Often, it is easy to fall into the trap of impulsive and mindless consumption. You step into the mall, see something you like, and the next thing you know you are walking out of a store with a paper bag in your hand. You feel good and satisfied with your purchase. After all, it is something you adore.

“I learned to want less. And if I do want something, it’s wanting substance,” - Mo Vivar of Denuo

Words by Tricia Quintero & Photos by Ivan Grasparin

Consumption nowadays are almost instantaneous, and with the additional layer of online shopping, it makes it even more accessible and easy for consumers. People all over the world are buying more clothes than ever. We can attribute this to the growing fast fashion industry where mass-produced trendy clothes are sold at affordable prices with quick turnarounds. While this may sound like good news to the industry, it also has an alarming effect on the bigger picture – the environment and the society. Fast fashion businesses can mass-produce while keeping the prices of their products in check primarily because of cheap materials and labor. Not to mention, the apparel industry makes up 10% of the global carbon footprint. This is where the need for sustainable and ethical fashion comes in, and luckily there are more and more brands that are striving to provide alternative options to drive sustainable and ethical consumption. One of those is Denuo.

Denuo is an online boutique which serves as a platform for sustainable and ethical retail. They do this by ensuring that their products undergo eco-conscious sourcing, production, and even marketing. Eco-conscious to them is taking every step necessary to ensure that all aspects of their operations are sustainable and doesn’t harm the environment. As a sustainable brand, they aim to help lessen the carbon footprint.

Their products are primarily reclaimed used and vintage clothing. The Denuo team goes to different places in the Metro and even outside the country in search for unique and stylish items that they can repurpose or sell to their clients. They make sure that their products are in good condition before putting them up for sale. With the goal of keeping their brand sustainable, they hand wash their products using essential oils, and then they are sun-dried. Their process might be tedious and laborious, but it is further proof of how they do everything with utmost care – both for the product and the environment. Even their delivery system stays true to this. For orders in Metro Manila, instead of using traditional couriers, Denuo uses Pedala, a bike messenger delivery system.

Denuo prides itself as a brand that’s aware of the community that it’s involved in, its impact to the future and the present, and how it reflects to the past. They understand that when you have a brand, you have a power of influence and that it’s very important to know what you can do.

They don’t aim to force their advocacy to people, but rather they want to provide their customers with a choice. “It’s all about empowering them as a consumer,” said Denuo founder Mo Vivar. “It’s about letting clients decide what has meaning for them.”

The terms sustainable and ethical consumption may seem intimidating for people who are starting out, but for Denuo it all goes back to responsibility. It’s taking control of what you buy. When you are empowered and when you take responsibility, you are not just a mindless consumer who purchases because of marketing and advertising influence. However, this is easier said than done, with consumers surrounded by ads and temptations to purchase, it is difficult to not get carried away. The impulsive shopping culture brought about by fast fashion is one of the biggest challenges anyone needs to face. When asked how she counters this, Mo said that the drive for sustainable consumption is also linked to mindfulness.

“I take responsibility for what I buy. Sometimes you just don’t want to think about it, and you want to just buy it, but over the years I’ve practiced being more responsible. It’s hard work, but like with everything, with repetition, it becomes a habit. Soon, it becomes second nature to you,” she shared.

“I learned to want less. And if I do want something, it’s wanting substance,” she added. “Once you start practicing thoughtful consumerism, you start to think of your purchases more critically. You start to ask why more. Whenever I buy something, I automatically ask myself ‘Why do I love it?’ ‘What purpose does it have?’ or ‘Why do I need it?’ It’s being aware and responsible.”

While sustainability is a serious topic and business, it is not a difficult lifestyle. It all boils down to caring – for yourself, for your community, and for your environment because if you start caring for these things, you will undoubtedly make the right decisions.

As a consumer, it’s important to understand how much power and capability you have to drive impact. After all, it is only until we change our habits as consumers that we start to see the effects. It ultimately brings you joy when you start to see consumption as sustainable and ethical because then you will be making meaningful purchases. It’s not that we should stop buying altogether, but it’s about buying less and buying better.

05 May 2017

Stalking Strangers in Seoul by Diane Jacinto

Diane Jacinto is a student of Fine Arts at University of the Philippines Baguio, who professes that she enjoys photography most among all mediums she have tried. Having traveled outside the country for a few times have led her to create a portrait series that shows her perspective of the local life. "I want to capture the locals at their most natural, and through the photographs show other people a glimpse of small portions of the their lives." she explains. Here, Diane shared to us her photos from a trip to Seoul, Korea. The series includes mundane city life in a bustling area of Seoul, it expresses energy and calmness at the same time.

02 May 2017

PURVEYR Producer Project: "eat the sun" by Similarobjects

For this PURVEYR Producer Project titled, "eat the sun", Similarobjects describes his inspiration below.

“The secret of how the sun is able to influence life is that sunlight carries not only energy, but also intelligence—the sun broadcasts a message to all life in our solar system to direct the evolution of every living thing.” So here's a summer mix inspired by the primary source of life and energy: the sun.

Similarobjects successfully paints a picture of a retro-inspired resort a few minutes before the sun sets. Imagine summer-funk infused with the energy of soul and house. A great playlist to lounge to, with your favorite bottle of beer (or cocktail) on hand.

Jorge Juan B. Wieneke V also known as Similarobjects is an experimental and electronic artist who made a name for himself as a producer who keeps on pushing the limits of sound. And to add to that, he's also the founder of progressive music collective, Buwanbuwan Collective and the first of its kind locally, Cosmic Sonic Arts Music School. On top of his successes locally, Similarobjects is also signed with Darker Than Wax a Singapore-based electronic music label, plus several musical triumphs internationally.

To know more about Similarobjects, we talked with him a year ago about his musical influences, and his journey as an electronic artist and producer, which you can read here.

1. Final Fantasy VII (Nobuo Uematsu) – Costa Del Sol 2. Miles Davis, Robert Glasper - Maiysha (So Long) ft. Erykah Badu 3. Kendrick Lamar – PRIDE. 4. Bobby Lyle – the Genie 5. Joshua Abrams – the BA 6. DEHEB – Yoke upon you 7. NOO & 10.4 ROG – Purple 8. George Duke - 'Scuse Me Miss (Aroop Roy edit) 9. Star Slinger - IV - 04 IV-IV 10. Vanilla – Suede 11. Sun Ra - Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie 12. Bitty Mclean – The Real Thing

For the free download, please visit this link.
You can see and hear more from Similarobjects here:

We are open for suggestions and applications for the PURVEYR Producer Project. Send an email to marvin@purveyr.com if you're interested. We're looking forward to hear from you.

29 April 2017

The Spark Project continues to build a community of Creative Entrepreneurs

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, ideas make the world go round. Think about it. The arts and humanities are borne of concepts. Science’s biggest breakthroughs were kickstarted by several eureka moments—lightbulbs clicking into place in one’s head. The most iconic films and tunes you can think of or the beautiful literary works that have made so much of an impact all started with one’s thoughts—the creative musings that have consumed him so. Patch Dulay is well aware of this. He didn’t know it then, but circa 2009 would mark the beginning of a passion project. It would be the first step to his quest of making ideas come to reality. One step at a time, one Filipino at a time.

Photography by Zaldine Jae Alvaro
Shot on location at: Acceler8 Coworking, Tordesillas, Makati

His brainchild www.TheSparkProject.com was born at the right time in the right place. Social media was quickly beginning its ascent, start-ups were no longer alien, and  e-commerce was gaining its appeal. The Philippines began to notice the trend that was catching fire internationally and was keen on welcoming the brand new endeavors with open arms. Enter “crowdfunding”. At first glance, one would be suspicious of the whole concept. But you would be surprised how the culture of crowdfunding is not really all that new to us. We do it when we pull for the bill (the infamous KKB) with the barkada on a weekend hangout. We do it when we raise funds for charity. The concept of formal crowdfunding deals with exactly the same get-go, but leverages on web technologies. And The Spark Project is here to change your perception on the concept and, while they’re at it, seeks to build a growing community of creative entrepreneurs.

The Spark Project moonlights as an avenue for local products to come to fruition, a safe haven for homegrown "aha" moments to reach their end goal, and a platform where innovation is made more intimate to the potential consumer. It works both ways—offline and online. Offline, TSP is heavy on cultivating the culture. They hold several regular sessions for different entities and individuals to educate them about the plausible concept and how one can benefit from such. Online, Spark is heavy on the curating and making the experience a user-friendly one. The process is as easy as logging in, creating a project page that would come out like a Facebook fan page, (thus visualizing the whole concept to your market), and setting a goal—a particular sum that would help make the project a success.

Patch explains further as he takes a sip of his morning coffee, “It’s a marketing tool for businesses that allow them to validate their idea. If they want to launch a new product and test the waters with the public, with this endeavor, they’re bound to know if their idea would fly. They could also use it for research and development or continuous improvement for their product. It’s really good for brands because it allows them to hype their product, and at the same time, they’re simultaneously raising funds. Even after the campaign is over, you get the exposure that you need. It’s a good way to jumpstart your business and it’s not an expensive way to do it”.

There’s a common thread that belies the community their team helped start. One is the fact that it sets the “Love Local” movement into motion. Another is the fact that ingenuity comes naturally to these folks—almost as if it’s a pulsing thread that make up their DNA. They’re dreamers empowered to make it happen for themselves. In the same breath, the feeling of empowerment is even stronger as they get to virtually tap into people who have the same wavelength as theirs, believe in what they do, and are willing to support them all the way.

And the success stories just keep coming. Nipa Brew’s is one for the books. They’ve come a long way from introducing their first flavor online to expanding to a full-fledged line—four, to be exact—of craft beers. The GOUACHE is also a true blue crowdfunding baby. From the concept of camera bags launched via The Spark Project, the brand now proudly carries several meticulously handcrafted waxed-canvas bags for the urban chic. Patch even got his personal project in the pipeline, the Obrano Minimalist—heritage wallets that allow you to make room for the meaningful. “I built my own leather engraved brand and I wanted to launch it through crowdfunding. We were able to raise a lot—three times more than what we set for. We ended the project with 200K with only an initial goal of 60K. It’s a way for us to get pre-orders of the wallet so we were able to produce the first batch, move our staff, and have enough money to make the business continuously work,” he shares. Not to mention a number of purposeful cause-oriented projects that made its debut on the site as well.

Now on its fifth year, The Spark Project shows no signs of slowing down. 2017 is a year centered on celebration and giving back. Aside from spreading out more sessions all over different parts of the Metro, the highlight is the Spark Festival happening in June. The festival will be a gathering of The Spark Project’s alumni, of creative people and doers, and of change makers in the local entrepreneurship landscape. The most interesting aspect of the festival perhaps is the fashion to which it attributes itself to—going back to its roots as they managed to raise a sum almost more than half of their working goal through crowdfunding via their website. Though still in its infancy stage, The Spark Project’s potential to up the ante of the Filipino’s flair for ideas shine brightest.

As the last few drips of coffee drains from the cup, the sun’s presence grows as it draws back the remnants of the morning and prepares for the onset of the afternoon. Our conversation draws to a close and Patch couldn't have summed things up better, “We always believe that Filipinos have the capacity to create really good things, world-class things. Sometimes, we just don’t embrace it. More often than not, we are the last people to believe in what we can do, right? But really, we just have to believe in ourselves and execute. For us in The Spark Project, we want to be able to nurture that kind of creative culture. If you have an idea, if you have a business, and love local, we can help connect you with the right people. Creative entrepreneurship is what we stand for."

25 April 2017

Local Tunes Round Up: Ben & Ben, Squid 9, Asch, Ankhten Brown, Leon.

Manila’s days are heating up, and local musicians are only here to add to that. This week’s local tunes round up features two new tape releases, a cool spin on a meme, a new single from an up and coming duo, and a fresh new music video. Cool yourself from the blazing sun with fresh new music below:

Ankthen Brown ft. Dru Jetzon - Cash Me Outside

Most memes end up overused and overstaying their welcome, but Ankthen Brown and Dru Jetzon’s spin on the popular line Cash Me Outside makes you forget its annoying origin. The song is quick but catchy, and you’re sure to be repeating its hook after your first listen, which we’re sure won’t be your last.

Ben & Ben - Leaves

Fresh from their successful EP launch last December, it seems like the duo Ben & Ben have no plans of taking it slow anytime soon with their latest release titled Leaves. A departure from their more upbeat first single Ride Home, Leaves is somewhat sad yet hopeful, apt for its subject of endings and beginnings.

Leon. - Statements

Two years since his last release, Leon. comes back with a new name and a fresh beat tape to boot. Previously known as SOUL_BRK, Leon. opts for a honest and simpler approach to his music, evident in his new drop. The song statements is a standout, complemented with Timothy Vaughn’s flawless bars, but we guarantee that each track off the tape will pull you in.

Asch - Beats for Sale/Lease

Hot on the heels of his Ashes to Ashes track release, electronic soul and jazz musician Asch does everyone a favor with his Beats For Sale/Lease set. Armed with his usual head bobbing beats, each track is slick and smooth, some with tight drops sure to give you eargasm. 

Squid 9 - Shiny

Local electronic group Squid 9 dropped the video for Shiny, a song off their 2016 album Weld. Enlisting the help of Taken By Cars drummer Bryan Kong, the video sees members Shinji Tanaka, Ymi Castel, and Raymund Marasigan passing a mystery box along the walls of Crazy Katsu, NAIA, and the streets of Hong Kong. The mystery is never revealed throughout the video, but the smooth beats and the vicarious travel to Hong Kong make the cliffhanger worth it.

21 April 2017

Curtismith just wants to free his mind

“I’m the one they badmouth,” opens Manila rap artist Mito Fabie, known for his moniker Curtismith (a portmanteau of famous Filipina actress Anne Curtis’s surname), on his new EP, Soully, Yours. The idea of dissing, in and of itself, is a part of rap’s DNA. One of the most pervasive arguments in its history and one of the core of rap pride is authenticity, something Curtismith himself reveres and aims to translate through his songs. As he navigates the local industry, he finds himself a target for exactly who he strives to represent: himself and earning his place in a culture that relishes in hypercompetition, representation, and – dare I say – greatness. In Curtismith’s case, he is aware of the criticism that inevitably comes with his work. Asked about it, he seemed unperturbed. “I heard a couple of [diss] tracks but they weren’t good enough to make me feel any type of way to give it more attention that it needs,” he said.

Words by MC Galang & Photography by Marvin Conanan

Filipino hip-hop is currently experiencing a renaissance, an overdue recalibration of prevalent, but outdated, styles from the 20th century and early 2000s and reshaping audience perception. We are way behind our Asian neighbors in terms of progress and recognition, a frustrating irony for a good reason: despite the prevalence and global domination of hip-hop in pop culture, we have a burdensome slow progress of catching up, at least collectively speaking: there seems to be a fixation to an earlier era that popularized rap rock, novelty rap, and boom bap iterations, most of which did not age well. The rebirth of local hip-hop sees both innovation and diversification, much like how Western hip-hop continues to seep into different musical styles and cultures all over the world. Curtismith believes that the local scene has both the panache and the talent to deliver: “We’re bringing a different flavor to the global melting pot. We’re currently in the process of making an ‘ecosystem’ of urban music with all these different styles and artists – and the more new and old artists emerge with honest content, the more the rest of the world will find our country appealing from the variety of sound and emotion we offer and connect through.” That is why ‘conyo rap’, a local epithet that denotes the social class status of the MC and little else, feels hindering to him. “It shows how society likes to box things in and can sometimes be too quick to judge before actually giving it a chance.” He adds, “We need improvement in the whole ‘us versus them’ mentality and understand that we don’t need to have the same views, but we need each other for the bigger picture, [which is] global recognition.”

With three releases (the latest being a two-part EP) under his belt in a span of a little over a year, Curtismith said he considers himself an outsider. “I personally don’t label my music rap or hip-hop, nor do I like to call myself a rapper,” he explains. He admitted that prior to entering the industry, he didn’t know much about the local hip-hop scene. When asked if he thinks labeling his music something else instead of rap or hip-hop would draw less aversion towards him by his contemporaries, he simply said, “I would like to just be an artist who expresses himself in different forms.” For him, “Rap is an expression of self. For people who think that it can’t be done by another set of people because they are different is just another ‘-ism’ in play.’’ Despite everything, he acknowledges that it’s all part of the game. “But not pondered on for too long,” he concluded.

Finding His Groove

Curtismith’s latest two-part EP release is a comparatively more ambitious follow-up to his previous efforts: IDEAL, a demo tape with promising moments but ultimately came up short, and Failing Forward, which included the endearingly gallant ‘LDR’. Even after the combined 18 tracks of both, Curtismith delivers an overall interesting, yet fragmented, body of work. What it felt lacking in cohesion, he made up with diligence: putting himself out there, releasing a series of polished music videos and just enough prominent features in a number of EPs and full-length albums from longtime collaborators CRWN, Jess Connelly, and fellow rap artists NINNO and Skarm. It all came together, starting with the process of rolling out his new EP in advance on Twitter for listeners to provide feedback. “It was… me wanting to understand how my songs affected a listener and connecting more with the audience that does appreciate what I offer. A thank you, as well as a ‘Please let me know what you think so next time I can do better.’”

On Soully Yours, the first part of his new EP, Curtismith is inarguably in his best form. His confessional style of rap yields nuances of intimacy, “snapshots of particular points in my life,” according to him, that he wishes to convey in characteristically soulful vibe. It is easily his most conceptualized effort to date. The songs are woven to each other thematically and lyrically, and while he mostly takes himself seriously, he allows himself to get loose and even throw in a couple of quips. It’s easy to tag ‘Snowflake Obsidian’ as Curtismith’s best song since the CRWN-produced ‘LDR’, with its months-long premature release that helped build the interest in the single itself and the upcoming EP, but it’s the closing track, ‘Free My Mind’ that best asserts his strengths as an MC, providing us with variations in his usual cadence and just simply providing a strong, memorable record. The seven-track EP features all-original production from Filipino producers Howle (‘Prologue, ‘West’), J. Wong (title track), Kidthrones (‘Snowflake Obsidian’, ‘24’, ‘Free My Mind’), and CRWN (‘No Ways’, which has the sole feature from Jess Connelly), a fact Curtismith takes pride on. “Everything from the beginning has been collaborative, from production to recording and sound engineering.” The second part of the EP, titled Rehearsals, is a project in collaboration with a young production collective called Stages Sessions. All five songs were recorded with a live band setup that largely incorporated jazz and blues. While it is not entirely new nor uncommon in hip-hop in general, it may initially feel like an idiosyncratic approach to his music and local rap in particular. Curtismith is confident in his musical decisions and heading towards this direction. On whether he plans on translating the band setup to the studio, he said, “I would love to… but more practice has to be done before I’m confident in incorporating it with content that I come out with from the studio. It’s a learning process I still have to develop.”

20 April 2017

The first Spill the Beans of 2017 talked about the relevance of Handmade

While everyone else was just getting started on their day, Yardstick was already packed and busy serving coffee after coffee. There must have been 40+ people that Saturday morning, and they were all there for one thing – to Spill the Beans. Spill the Beans is a quarterly get-together hosted by Yardstick and Purveyr, where ideas are shared, exchanged and challenged. What happens is the invited speakers will share their ideas and thoughts on a given topic, then there will be a quick panel interview just before we open the floor for questions from the audience.

The first Spill the Beans of 2017 was held last March 25 at Yardstick, and it circled around the question "How can handmade products remain competitive and relevant in this age of technology?" We extended this query to the invited speakers, individuals who support the handmade movement through their own brands and businesses.

Jerard Jader
Co-Owner & Managing Partner of Sapatero Manila

Sapatero is a Filipino shoemaking brand that specializes in men's leather dress shoes. Their goal is to revitalize the Philippine shoemaking industry by realizing the craftsmanship needed in making them. Jerard's role is to seek out opportunities for Sapatero to grow locally, then later on be globally recognized with their high-quality footwear.

Simone Mastrota
Owner & Chocolate Maker of Tigre y Oliva

Tigre y Olivia is a bean to bar chocolate brand based in San Juan, La Union. After spending some time in California and Europe to perfect his craft of chocolate-making, Simone decided to move to the Philippines as he saw an opportunity for artisanal chocolate made from Filipino Cacao. 

Chi Gibbs
Co-Founder & Designer of Neon Island

Neon Island is a Filipino clothing brand for women dedicated to celebrating the local. All their pieces use hand drawn prints designed by Chi. The clothes they put out are a representation of her creativity and passion for the arts, as she is the sole designer and textile print artist of Neon Island.

Ettore Scagliola
After Sales Specialist of La Marzocco (Italy)

La Marzocco takes pride in their high quality espresso machines handcrafted in Florence since 1927. It has been 90 years since their conception, so their world renowned reputation is as expected. La Marzocco strives to produce top of the notch specialty coffee equipment that goes beyond the actual machine and the coffee it produces.

After hearing these four individuals talk about their work and their passion, one can only imagine the positive energy that enveloped the room. The exchange of ideas was informative as it is inspiring leaving the audience eager to know more.

Join us at the next installment of Spill the Beans. Stay tuned and follow us on Instagram.

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